Sunday, October 28

It’s fall. I filled out a ballot today, which is basically the furthest extent of my political participation in recent memory, a few angry letters aside. I feel paralyzed.

In the world, things seem bad and getting worse. The last few days have featured a mass murder at a synagogue, pipebombs in the mail, that fucker winning in Brazil. It’s like this all over. The internet is a stew of fear and loathing, impossible to assimilate or process, this howling gale of bad feelings about everything and everyone blowing out of pretty much every screen on the planet. I get up in the morning to work my computer job and if I’m unlucky I click the wrong thing and I don’t recover from how fucked-up it makes me feel until the next day or the next week. We made everybody halfway to telepathic and it turns out to be like in that Spider Robinson story where the guy can read minds and it’s a traumatic nightmare to know what other people are thinking. Like that but with feedback loops all over the place.

I’m doing it right now. It’s a bad look.

thursday, october 25

when i was young, i read a book
(or maybe had it read to me)
where a tornado struck a small town
and in one scene a character was wearing
a windbreaker

that word, windbreaker, got burned into my memory
right then, along with the vivid idea that
it must mean some kind of potent technology,
protective gear which could shield or
reinforce you against the howling wind of
a tornadic plains thunderstorm

i don't know how old i was before i figured out
that it just meant a kind of light and particularly
ineffective jacket, but it still carries the echo
of my disappointment at how much harder it is
than that to find any real armor against the violence
of the world.

Sunday, October 7


I recently added a new script to my collection of personal utilities, filter-exec-stdin.

It’s a little hard to explain this one without reference to its close relatives, filter-exec and filter-exec-raw. These are, as the name strongly implies, filters: They take standard input, transform it, and print the result to standard output.

This makes them easy to use in a text editor like vim, where you can pass the contents of a buffer through an external program like so:


I wrote filter-exec, the first of these, as a quick and dirty way to include shell commands and their output when writing documentation (like userland or DigitalOcean tutorials) in Markdown. Markdown parsers tend to ignore HTML comments, so I used comments to mark the start and end of a block, and $ to mimic a command prompt, followed by the command string:

<!-- exec -->

    $ ack --thppppt

<!-- end -->

And the filter adds the output:

<!-- exec -->

    $ ack --thppppt
    _   /|
       U    ack --thppppt!

<!-- end -->

The output is indented 4 spaces, which causes Markdown parsers to treat it as preformatted text. It can be run repeatedly, and will retain the command but update the output.

Later on I was cobbling together a system for generating simple invoices, and wanted something similar without the command included in the rendered output or the indentation, so I added filter-exec-raw:

<!-- exec-raw ack --thppppt -->
_   /|
   U    ack --thppppt!
<!-- end -->

Here the command is inside the HTML comment, and the raw output is printed inside the block, instead of an indented version.

exec-stdin is more meta. It goes something like this:

<!-- exec-stdin sort | uniq -->
<!-- end -->

…that is, it runs the command after exec-stdin, passes the contents of the block off to it, and replaces the block with the command’s output. I’m not sure how useful this is. It assumes that a command will have stable output for given input - that is, something like sort, where once the input is sorted, it won’t change again. The idea is that I might have a block of text that should be sorted, checked for duplicates, formatted, etc., and I can just invoke utilities like sort, uniq, fmt, and so forth to handle those problems.

It’s possible that a more-generally-useful filter would retain the original block while also outputting the results of the command.

Thursday, October 4

Glitter Positioning System, a project for Burning Man 2018.

CircuitPython code at